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Wednesday November 2, 2011 2:10 pm

Verizon WIreless to allow customers to pay for ‘Turbo’ speed boost for apps


Verizon turbo APIVerizon will publish an API that could allow consumers to "turbocharge" the network bandwidth their smartphone apps use for a small fee, executives said Tuesday.

Verizon anticipates that a customer running an app on a smartphone will have the option to dynamically snatch more bandwidth for that app, if network congestion slows it down, said Hugh Fletcher, associate director for technology in Verizon's Product Development and Technology team. The app, however, must be running what Verizon referred to as the network optimization API it is currently developing, and hopes to publish by the third quarter of 2012.

Users could have the option to pay for the extra bandwidth via a separate microtransaction API Verizon is developing and hopes to have in place by the end of 2012, Fletcher said.


At an open-house event at Verizon's Application Innovation Center in San Francisco, Verizon executives showcased several partner efforts, plus their own in-house technology development. Probably the most noteworthy was the network optimization technology, which took a high-quality video stream and simulated it running over a congested network. When a Verizon engineer pushed a "turbo button," the video's choppy frame rate and apparent quality improved.

The center, opened in August, is designed to assist developers working on apps to take advantage of the Verizon network. Verizon doesn't require an NDA or an exclusivity agreement for a developer to tap into its resources, said Larry Rau, director of network technology for Verizon. "We believe if we partner with people they'll deploy on our network, and that's been pretty true," he said.

Verizon first announced its plans to open its APIs in Sept. 2010, when it disclosed 20 location and other APIs to developers, as well as announced plans to release the API giving network access to developers. On Tuesday, Verizon executives showed off how - with permission given via SMS - Verizon users could disclose their location via the Verizon API. Fletcher postulated a future where banks could use the API to establish a customer's location as a means to determine if a credit or debit card being used nearby had been stolen.

But the demonstration Tuesday was one of the first, if not the first time, Verizon showed off the network technology publicly. Even with it LTE technology driving its fastest mobile network in the U.S., Verizon still sees a day when congestion can impact high-bandwidth apps.

"I think one of the things that you could do is guaranteed quality of service," Fletcher said, when asked how the network optimization API could be used. "One of the things that we are right now is very democratic in terms of allocating spectrum and bandwidth to users. And just because you request a high quality of service doesn't mean you're gonna get it. [The network] will try to give it to you, but if there's a lot of congestion, a lot of people using it, it won't kick people off."

The network optimization API will likely expose attributes like jitter, latency, bandwidth, and priority to app developers, Fletcher said.

"I think you could anticipate that maybe you'll have a Skype call that starts going bad," Fletcher said. "Wouldn't you like to be able to hit the turbo button and have that come back up to be a good call?"

When asked if Verizon would put the turbo button as an option that would be presented to the customer using the phone, Fletcher replied, "Absolutely, yes."

Verizon is also developing a micropayments or microtransaction API. A demonstration by Vodafone, which owns about 45 percent of Verizon Wireless, showed that users could have access to and buy music from the Vodafone music store. Verizon's stance on mobile commerce between itself and consumers is very conservative, Fletcher said; subscribers can only buy $25 worth of digital goods from Verizon per month.

But the real enabler may be third-party carrier billing systems, such as eBay's carrier billing subsidiary, Zong, which has relationships with Verizon and others.

"We believe that operator carrier billing decreases the restrictions on people buying stuff and I think we're all searching for the perfect balance," Fletcher said.

"What I suspect will happen is that there are different storefronts like Google or Amazon, they'll have their own SDKs, and we may have our own SDK for Verizon apps, but I think the real play will be to integrate with those storefronts," Fletcher added.

This article, written by Mark Hachman, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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